Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This has been a roller-coaster week, hasn’t it? At first, we saw measures and changes to our daily lives introduced on a daily basis. Now it seems that the response and reaction to the spread of COVID-19 occurs almost hourly. While our lives have been disrupted, and many of us feel as though they’ve been turned upside down, there are a number of things that are constant, things to which we can anchor our lives during these unpredictable times.
God’s love for us is constant and never-changing. God’s love for us expressed in Jesus does not fluctuate like the stock markets; it is consistently given to us with no strings attached. Another constant is the relationships we have with our families, friends, neighbors, and, in particular, our parish community. Your response to requests, participation in online services, financial generosity, and offers to help others in need have been remarkable, and they have been a great blessing to me.
Today the bishop directed all parish churches to be closed through Easter Day, April 12. While that announcement distresses me greatly as your priest and pastor, it is necessary in order to slow down the spread of the virus. We will have Sunday services and all Holy Week services and Easter online. I’m going to be working with the clergy, staff, and altar guild about ways you can celebrate these events in your home as you watch online. I will send out a pastoral letter over the weekend outlining how we can stay connected and continue to do the work of this parish over the next few weeks.
Although the building is essentially closed for public gatherings right now, the work of the church continues. The staff is meeting and planning, the office is operating, leaders are meeting, parishioners are reaching out to one another, and the worship life of our community continues. Of course, we’re doing that differently and in new ways, but the work we do in partnership with God here in this place continues. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to work on additional ways to keep us connected and in touch with one another, and will be asking some of you to help with those initiatives. Watch for those, and please do read the communications that come from the parish.
Some have asked how I’m coping with all of this. To be completely honest with you, I’ve had a few sleepless nights lately. However, what has been helpful to me during all of this is really simple.
Before—and I emphasize before—reading or watching the news in the morning, I get coffee, find a quiet place, pray or just stare out the window, and usually give attention to Abi, our lab, who just can’t get enough attention. Begin the day with a centering practice of some kind; perhaps morning prayer or contemplative prayer. Read Scripture, especially the Gospels and the Psalms. For those new to the Episcopal Church (and some others who have been around for a while!) this would be a great time to explore the riches of The Book of Common Prayer. Meditate or practice yoga. The possibilities are endless!
Make a list, either mentally or on paper, of the things for which you are grateful. Gratitude for what we do have can help us frame and put into perspective what is going on in the world around us.
Stay in touch with others. Staying connected with family, friends, neighbors, and your parish community is vital. Use this as an opportunity to get acquainted with neighbors you don’t know or reconnect with friends. You might want to consider joining a group that is meeting online—a community service group, our women’s and men’s groups, youth group, or a special interest group.
Take care of yourself physically. Get out and enjoy this beautiful weather! Take a walk, work in the yard, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in our part of it. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, take a nap. Our physical well-being has a direct impact on our emotional/spiritual well-being.
Find ways to serve others. If you need ideas, reach out to me. Our Faith in Action Commission is meeting next week, and we may have additional ways to serve to share with you next week.
If you have time on your hands, learn about or explore something you’ve always wanted to know about but didn’t have the time. Although I’m pretty busy right now, I want to do some more research on greenhouse gardening.
Make the worship of God a priority. For Christians, this should go without saying, but one good thing that can come out of this is restoring the corporate worship of God to a central place in our schedules. Worship is not only for our comfort and encouragement, it is one of the ways God’s Spirit works in our lives to transform us.
Know that I am praying for all of you daily, and that our parish leadership stands ready to serve you in any way possible during these times. Since we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day earlier this week, I leave you with this blessing:
As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit, Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
With love for all of you,